|Publication number||US6728880 B1|
|Application number||US 09/398,232|
|Publication date||Apr 27, 2004|
|Filing date||Sep 17, 1999|
|Priority date||Sep 17, 1999|
|Publication number||09398232, 398232, US 6728880 B1, US 6728880B1, US-B1-6728880, US6728880 B1, US6728880B1|
|Inventors||Richard L. Sites|
|Original Assignee||Adobe Systems Incorporated|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (6), Referenced by (80), Classifications (6), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to time identification on a computer.
Computers generally contain clock circuits, and these local clock circuits operate to maintain time on the computer. The local clock circuits can be reset by users so that a computer's local time can be any value. Therefore, a computer may have a local time that is different from time on any other clock. In some situations, it is necessary for a computer program to obtain a trusted time, for example, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), that is, a time that can be relied upon as being correct in the sense that it is not subject to user manipulation. Ordinarily, computers obtain a trusted time by being actively connected to a special device or to a network that can provide the trusted time in a secure way to the computer.
In general, in one aspect, the invention provides techniques that can be implemented as methods, systems, or apparatus, including computer program apparatus, for providing a trusted time. The techniques include sending a first local time from a computer to a trusted server, receiving trusted time data protected by a digital signature from the trusted server, storing the trusted time data on the computer, checking the validity of the trusted time data, and using the trusted time data to compute a trusted time. Advantageously, in one implementation, the computer has a read-only local counter securely coupled to its local clock circuit, the local counter and the local clock circuit operating to change a counter value of the local counter whenever the local clock circuit is reset in a way that resets the local time provided by the local clock circuit.
Advantages that can be seen in implementations of the invention include one or more of the following. A process running on a computer can determine a trusted time securely without being continuously connected to a special device or a network even in a situation where the computer's local clock circuit is not secure. A process running on a computer can determine securely the difference between a trusted time and a local time. A process running on a computer can check the a validity of a time difference, saved on the computer, between a trusted time and a local time. A process running on a computer can maintain the security of a document security scheme that depends on knowing a correct time, such as GMT, without requiring the computer to be tethered (i.e., actively connected) to a secure time source.
The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the description, the drawings, and the claims.
FIG. 1 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for providing a trusted time in accordance with the invention.
FIG. 2 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for determining a trusted time in accordance with the invention.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a local clock and read-only counter circuit suitable for use with the methods of the invention.
FIG. 1 illustrates a method 100 for providing a trusted time. The method 100 can be implemented in a computer program running on a computer, such as a module in a personal computer, a module in a personal digital assistant, or a module in a digital appliance, or otherwise. A digital appliance is any kind of equipment with an embedded computer, which may be as simple as single integrated circuit containing a processor, memory for storing instructions executed by the processor, memory for storing data, and input/output interface circuitry. A first local time is obtained from a local clock circuit on the computer and sent to a trusted server (step 110), which may be in communication with the computer over a network such as a local area network or a wide area network like the Internet. The trusted server is a device or a process that keeps a trusted time. The trusted time can be a standard time reference, such as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Universal Time (UT). Then, the computer receives trusted time data from the trusted server (step 120). In one embodiment, trusted time data includes a time difference, the time difference being the difference between the sent local time and the trusted time on the server. The trusted time data is stored on the computer (step 130).
Before the trusted time data is used, possibly at some very much later time, the validity of the trusted time data is tested (step 140). In one embodiment, the trusted time data includes a first counter value that is obtained from a local counter on the computer when the first local time is obtained from the local clock circuit. The validity of the trusted time data is tested by obtaining the first counter value from the trusted time data and comparing it to a current counter value obtained from the local counter. If the first local counter value and the current counter value differ, then the method can report the failure (step 150). If the first local counter value and the current counter value are the same, then the trusted time data is used to compute a local trusted time corresponding to a second local time (step 160). The trusted time is computed by summing the second local time and the time difference obtained from the trusted time data.
FIG. 2 illustrates a method 200 for determining a trusted time on a computer. Trusted time data is retrieved from local storage on the computer (step 210), which generally will have been obtained at some indefinite earlier time from a trusted source. The integrity of the trusted time data is protected by encryption—for example, it can be signed with a digital signature or it can be encrypted, for example with a private key. The data includes a time difference and a reference counter value. The time difference represents the difference between a local time on the computer and a trusted time. Then, the trusted time data is recovered and its integrity is confirmed, for example by decrypting the data (step 220). If encrypted with a private key, the trusted time data would be decrypted with a corresponding public key. A current counter value is obtained from a read-only counter on the computer, which is coupled to a local clock circuit in the computer (step 230). The validity of the reference counter value is tested by comparing the reference counter value to the current counter value (step 240). If the reference counter value is not valid, then the method can report the failure (step 250). In one implementation, the reference counter value is not valid if it is not the same as the current counter value; the reference counter value is valid if it is the same as the current counter value. If the reference counter value is valid, then the trusted time data is used to compute a trusted time (step 260). In one implementation, the trusted time data includes a time difference, and the trusted time can be computed by summing the time difference and a local time obtained from the computer.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a local clock and read-only counter circuit 300 having the features described above. The clock-and-counter circuit 300 has a counter memory 302 (such as a dedicated register or a dedicated portion of a random access memory) for storing the counter value of the read-only counter. The circuit 300 may be implemented in a separate package or as part of a larger circuit, such as a microprocessor or embedded processor. The circuit 300 has one or more bus interfaces 304 over which to receive and furnish control signals and data. The circuit 300 includes logic and arithmetic circuitry 306 and clock circuitry and RAM 308 for generating and storing local time.
The logic and arithmetic circuitry 306 performs the functions required of the clock-and-counter circuit 300 to support the secure time features described above. In a conventional manner, the logic and arithmetic circuitry 306 provides an interface defined by an address map. Counter values and any other data and status values are obtained by reading the appropriate memory bytes defined by the address map. Operations such as the update operation are requested by writing to set control bits in the appropriate memory bytes defined by the address map. When the clock is reset, that is, whenever an event occurs that causes a break in the time reported by the clock, reset detector circuitry 366 detects the event and counter update circuitry 368 updates the counter memory 302. When a power-up condition is detected by detector 362, a random number is generated by generator 364 and stored as the counter value in the counter memory 302. The random number generator 364 can implement any technique that generates a non-predictable random number within the range of possible counter values. To avoid the risk that access to the seed of a pseudo-random technique will compromise the integrity of the read-only counter, an analog white noise generation circuit can be included in the generator 364, which then amplifies and digitizes the white noise output and from the digitized value generates a counter value as a random sequence of bits.
Also to discourage attacks on the security of the clock, the circuitry 306 can include circuitry 363 to limit the frequency with which power up conditions can occur and circuitry 367 to limit the frequency with which clock reset operations can occur.
The invention can be implemented in digital electronic circuitry, or in computer hardware, firmware, software, or in combinations of them. Apparatus of the invention can be implemented in a computer program product tangibly embodied in a machine-readable storage device for execution by a programmable processor; and method steps of the invention can be performed by a programmable processor executing a program of instructions to perform functions of the invention by operating on input data and generating output. The invention can be implemented advantageously in one or more computer programs that are executable on a programmable system including at least one programmable processor coupled to receive data and instructions from, and to transmit data and instructions to, a data storage system, at least one input device, and at least one output device. Each computer program can be implemented in a high-level procedural or object-oriented programming language, or in assembly or machine language if desired; and in any case, the language can be a compiled or interpreted language. Suitable processors include, by way of example, both general and special purpose microprocessors. Generally, a processor will receive instructions and data from a read-only memory and/or a random access memory. Generally, a computer will include one or more mass storage devices for storing data files; such devices include magnetic disks, such as internal hard disks and removable disks; magneto-optical disks; and optical disks. Storage devices suitable for tangibly embodying computer program instructions and data include all forms of non-volatile memory, including by way of example semiconductor memory devices, such as EPROM, EEPROM, and flash memory devices; magnetic disks such as internal hard disks and removable disks; magneto-optical disks; and CD-ROM disks. Any of the foregoing can be supplemented by, or incorporated in, ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits).
To provide for interaction with a user, the invention can be implemented on a computer system having a display device such as a monitor or LCD screen for displaying information to the user and a keyboard and a pointing device such as a mouse or a trackball by which the user can provide input to the computer system. The computer system can be programmed to provide a graphical user interface through which computer programs interact with users.
The invention has been described in terms of particular embodiments. Other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims. For example, the steps of the invention can be performed in a different order and still achieve desirable results.
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|U.S. Classification||713/178, 713/503, 713/400|
|Sep 17, 1999||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: ADOBE SYSTEMS INCORPORATED, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SITES, RICHARD L.;REEL/FRAME:010349/0795
Effective date: 19990915
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